Golden Son (Red Rising, #2)Golden Son by Pierce Brown

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This review contains spoilers for Red Rising by Pierce Brown. Click here for a non-spoiler review of Red Rising by Pierce Brown (Book Review)

Book synopsis:

Darrow was born a Red, down in the mines of Mars, a Helldiver risking his life daily to provide for his family a decent meal and a tolerable life. But the Golds took everything from him; his beloved wife, Eo, his family, his idea of reality. And now he is ready to take everything from them; their power, their society and their rules. Carved a Gold and having survived the Institute, he is well on his way to recognition and fame by becoming one of au Augustus’ own peerless scarred. But a stupid miscalculation brings his plans to a great halt. A great fail to capture a Bellona ship costs him his reputation and dignity and brings him the ridicule of the Gold community. Now it seems that he will, for once more, find himself in desperate need to rise again in a vast sea of monsters.

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Golden Son is the second novel in the Red Rising trilogy following the events two years after Darrow has left the Institute a victor and has been embraced in the Augustus family. Darrow is now 20 years old and he is training at the Academy in the art of war by doing mock battles against other Golds. Golden Son holds an average rating of 4.46 on Goodreads which is rather impressive! Before I compose a review, I always stroll through other people’s reviews and boy oh boy, was it difficult to get a diverse perspective on this one. Five star reviews everywhere! This YA science fiction series has really earned the love of the reading audience and was also voted for the 2015 Goodreads Choice Award winner in the Science Fiction category, as did Red Rising in 2014.

This is so far from the future I imagined for myself as a boy. So far from the future I wanted to make for my people when I let the Sons carve me. I thought I would change the worlds. What young fool doesn’t? Instead, I have been swallowed by the machine of this vast empire as it rumbles inexorably on.

Starting off in a promising vain of improving upon the many shortcomings of the first book, I initially thought that Pierce Brown was on the right path. You see, one of my biggest issues in the first book was the ever-present trope in YA SFF novels of a protagonist who is the chosen one and who can do anything and everything. That was Darrow. Annoyingly, irritatingly perfect Darrow. In Golden Son, Pierce Brown had this idea of beginning the plot by making Darrow fail at something. Badly. This decision of the author failed miserably. You cannot present Invictus Darrow and expect me to believe that just because he makes a big mistake he is now less of a god, less than a wonder of nature. You need to start changing him little by little, make Darrow smaller, make him a more relatable person! Moreover, the presence of Darrow in this novel – or rather, the focus on Darrow in this novel – is too damn high. Darrow, Darrow, Darrow. Pierce Brown has created an annoying, untouchable main character and has built his world around him. This is a minus for me.

Every time you look in the mirror, remember what we did to you. Remember you breathe because we let you. Remember your heart will one day be on our table. Rise so high, in mud you lie.

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But apart from the poorly chosen and drawn main character, I have no doubt that Pierce Brown is a great talent in the science fiction adventure genre. The second book suffers from second book syndrome, and it is quite clear that it is a set up for the third and last book of this trilogy. Brown is doing the brilliant work of world building, opening the door to his – and ours – vast universe. We travel to our moon, Luna, and to other planets and their moons.We learn some very interesting information about human history, Golds, Obsidians and the rest. We are plunged into the world of politics, intrigue and games of power. We fight alongside Darrow in starships, through explosions and combat. Although this second book to me was not as fun as the first one, it delivered the necessary and required foundations that Pierce Brown needed to build upon for his third installment.

There is no greater plague to an introvert than the extroverted.

Furthermore, this second book is heavily built upon the relations that Darrow builds – and breaks – with other individuals of the society. On the spotlight is his relationship with the ArchGovernor, Nero au Augustus and his children, Mustang and the Jackal. But we also explore other affairs that Darrow has with more people from various levels of the social order. Based on these alliances and social turmoil, the book makes the mistake of the little boy who kept falsely calling to his fellow shepherds that a wolf is attacking the sheep so when the wolf actually came, no one was impressed anymore by his cries and nobody believed him. This novel is plot twist after plot twist after plot twist. It’s a strong case of when everything seems to be working out but are sure that something is going to go wrong in the end. Since it’s only the second book in the trilogy, the story is bound to go to shit, otherwise why would there be a third book? If you keep expecting a plot twist to ruin everything, you are never really shaken or surprised when it comes. So yeah, the ‘unexpected’ turns of events failed miserably to be ‘unexpected’.

This is what it’s like being the alpha, the Primus. The others look to you for guidance. They can smell the tangy odor of blood on you before it’s even there. Age doesn’t matter. Experience doesn’t matter.

But, as I claimed before, Pierce Brown has great talent. In the end, he did not disappoint. In fact, the ending was very satisfying, alluring, engaging and successfully shocking. It sets up a wonderful finale from which to grab on tight for the third installment which, I believe, is going to be a fun ride! Although Darrow is in many ways a portrait of a person who breaks a vase, feels sorry about it and then proceeds to keep breaking more vases, plates, glasses, paintings until he has destroyed a whole neighborhood and even though he is all about ‘a means to an end’ mentality, I can still override my annoyance for the fun, action-paced, science fiction brilliance that Pierce Brown has brought to the table. I am really excited to pick up his third book, Morning Star, right away.

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